Norrie McCathie was the Dunfermline Athletic Club Captain when he tragically died from carbon monoxide poisoning at his home on 8th January 1996. He was only 34.
After playing in a struggling Dunfermline side apparently going nowhere, the club's explosive, unexpected rise to the top flight of the Scottish game as well as Norrie's belated introduction to full time football, may have contributed to the emergence of the reserved, dignified model professional who had both feet set firmly on the ground.
Norrie McCathie first attracted attention in 1979/80 as a centre forward with Edinburgh amateur side, Edina Hibs, scoring 36 goals. Cowdenbeath manager Pat Stanton was tipped off about him and signed the striker for £350, £50 of which Norrie always maintained he never received!
He made his league debut on September 27th 1980 as a substitute, helping Cowdenbeath defeat Meadowbank 1-0. The following week saw Norrie play from the start at Forfar, but this time was replaced himself by none other than future Pars team mate Grant Tierney.
Pat Stanton quickly moved on to East End Park while Norrie found his appearances limited under new boss Andy Rolland. During the summer Stanton was surprised to receive a phone call suggesting that Cowdenbeath might be interested in swapping Norrie for Pars forward Craig MacFarlane. Norrie agreed to the move and became a Pars player on August 10th 1981. The transfer went almost unnoticed amidst the blaze of publicity surrounding the arrival of Dunfermline's then record signing Doug Considine from Aberdeen.
Despite signing as a striker Stanton had noticed the versatility of the player and had already moved him into midfield. Although he'd been in the first team squad for the previous two matches, it was still something of a surprise when the boss gave him his debut at Ayr on 24th October 1981. The 20-year-old was only told an hour before the kick off that he was standing in for the absent Kevin Hegarty and in spite of the shock played well helping the Pars to a 1-1 draw against the joint league leaders.
On a couple of occasions that season Norrie lined up in central defence and in one of those against Motherwell, Dunfermline conceded six goals! Back in midfield Norrie scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 victory over Queens Park in February. Three days later a trip to Dumfries saw Norrie score two more, including the 84th minute winner.
Further progress was expected in 1982/83 but the change of managers to Tom Forsyth saw Norrie confined to the reserves. After another handful of outings as a centre half Forsyth eventually gave Norrie an extended run in midfield but he couldn't help the Pars escape relegation.
At least the 1983/84 season saw him emerge as an automatic first team selection despite a terrible season for the club and the Dunfermline Press nominated him as the outstanding player at East End Park, praising his "tireless, inspiration of colleagues."
His attacking ability saw him form a potent strikeforce alongside John Watson and Grant Jenkins in 1984/85. After an impressive start to the season both the team's and Norrie's form waned. However, December's 2-2 draw with Stirling Albion saw Alan Forsyth sent off and once again the versatile Norrie McCathie filled the gap and played extremely well.
It wasn't until late February that Jim Leishman decided to play Norrie beside big Davie Young in the defence for a match at league leaders Alloa Athletic. The gamble paid off as Norrie was superb in the Pars 3-1 win and Leishman kept him in that position for the remainder of the season .
1985/86 was Norrie's first full season in defence and proved a triumph as Dunfermline lifted the Second Division Championship. Forming a strong partnership with Dave Young, Norrie would often venture upfield and managed to score 8 goals that season. To demonstrate just how crucial a player he was, the Pars lost heavily to Queen of the South and Meadowbank in the two matches he missed through suspension.
There was no such problems in 1986/87 as Norrie played in all 44 league games - the only Pars player to do so. The Club again went on again to gain promotion and again the McCathie-Young combination was unsurpassed.
Initially the season began with Norrie partnering Grant Reid, but Dave was soon back in the team and the understanding was better than ever.
Although Bobby Robertson was Club captain, Norrie provided much of the drive and inspiration. One particular example stands out. On March 14th against Clyde at Firhill, Norrie broke up an attack and came forward as the Pars looked to secure a last gasp winner. John Donnelly sent over a cross that the keeper couldn't hold and Norrie was on hand to nod home the goal in the dying seconds.
Despite full-time football being introduced to East End Park most of the "old brigade" departed during the first few weeks of Premier Division life. Many supporters thought Norrie would be on his way and although he did find it difficult coping with the demands of both the full time game and top flight football, he managed to prove many of his detractors wrong.
Not unexpectedly Dunfermline were relegated and it was back to the First Division where Norrie's future really looked in doubt. A pre-season injury meant he didn't appear in the first team until October and even then was quickly dropped after a 3-1 home defeat by Meadowbank.
A few weeks on the bench followed before he was re-instated to face St. Johnstone, only to get injured again. New signing Grant Tierney was playing well and after a loan spell to Ayr, Norrie returned for a vital match at Broomfield on 21st January 1989. In one of the Pars best performances of the season, Norrie scored the second in a 2-0 win and held his place for the rest of the season winning another League Championship medal.
Before Norrie, only a handful of players had achieved 300 league appearances for the Club, George Peebles was the first between 1956 and 1966, then his record was passed by Kenny Thomson during the 1970's. Bobby Robertson made 360 league appearances between 1977 and 1988, however this was a very long way from the 497 league matches which Norrie graced and it will be a very long time before that record is surpassed.
To put Norrie's achievements in context, it should be seen that only 12 men in the first 105 years history of the Scottish League played more than 500 league matches for one club. Norrie comes next above many of the great one-man-club names in Scottish football, like John Greig, Billy McNeil, Alex McLeish and Paul Hegarty.
Respect has to be earned in Scotland's national sport and few were held in such high regard as Norrie. As Dunfermline rose through the divisions, he became known to players and supporters at clubs from Aberdeen to Stranraer and a few more besides. To them all, over fifteen years, Norrie McCathie was Mr Dunfermline, the man most associated with DAFC.
As well as widespread respect, opponents came to fear him - feared because of his commitment and passion for the Pars, for his fight and drive that could turn around a seemingly hopeless position. Despite his enormous will to win, his endless battling body. He was an absolute gentleman - that is why so many players and supporters of other clubs left messages of sympathy and momentos at East End Park when he died suddenly in January 1996.
Norrie proved an inspiration to hundreds of players, some who made it, some who didn't - who passed through the gates of the club over the years. Very few will have a bad word to say about Norrie. Maybe that's because Norrie would never criticise anybody, whether it was a referee, an opponent or a colleague who wasn't quite cutting it. Not even during the turmoil of the early nineties after the departure of Jim Leishman and the club's ignominious slide from the Premier Division would Norrie express any sort of opinion if it meant being negative.
Leading the team out onto Hampden Park for the 1992 Skol Cup Final was probably his proudest moment but nobody will ever forget the responsibility Norrie showed in taking the decisive penalty that got Dunfermline there.
Other players were brought in with a view to replacing Norrie, but it never happened. No one else could tackle as hard, head as firmly, cover as skilfully, read the game as adeptly and no one, of course, could blooter the ball into the crowd with as much style and panache as Norrie!
Among his partners in the heart of the Athletic defence were such players as Davie Young, Grant Reid, John Holt, Grant Tierney, Milos Drizic, Andy Williamson, Mark Haro and most poignant of all Gary Riddell. However Norrie proved simply irreplaceable, seemingly in with the bricks at East End Park.
Norrie was an Edinburgh man who came to adopt Dunfermline as his home and in return became a favourite son of the town. In partnership with his best friend and team mate John Watson, he became a successful publican, intent on putting something back into the area which had been so good to him. Never one to hide from the fans, Norrie could often be found pulling pints at one of his pubs, enjoying a crack even after a defeat. It seemed particularly appropriate that the pair should take over the East Port Bar, long regarded as a haven of Pars supporters.
On 6th January 1996 Norrie made his last appearance in the 2-1 defeat at St Mirren and his last goal was against Dundee four weeks earlier in a 4-2 victory. His Manager at the time, Bert Paton said of Norrie's death:-
"Norrie epitomised everything that was good about Dunfermline and we will hold his memory in our hearts forever."
|Career with Dunfermline Athletic|
|Season||League||League Cup||Scot Cup||Totals|
|1984/85||36 (1)||8||2||2||1||0||39 (1)||10|
|1987/88||38 (1)||1||2||0||4||0||44 (1)||1|
|1988/89||19 (1)||1||0||0||0||0||19 (1)||1|
|1991/92||38 (2)||0||5||0||3||0||46 (2)||0|
|1992/93||30 (2)||2||2||0||1||0||33 (2)||2|
|488 (9)||54||30||4||27||0||553 (10)||59|
|Add B&Q Cup appearances||8 (1)||1|
|TOTALS||496 (14)||54||30||4||27||0||561 (15)||59|